New England Patriots

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Last week, Jonnu Smith’s signing kicked off the Patriots’ free agent frenzy. The deal represented not only a new start for the Patriots organization, but Smith himself.

“It one of the most exciting days of my life, one of the most thrilling days of my life,” Smith recalled, when speaking with New England media for the first time on Tuesday. “Just to be able to start a new chapter, fresh start, new journey.”

Locking down his first post-rookie contract was an emotional experience for the 25-year-old. “Going back to that day, I cried all I could,” he said, visibly emotional. “I don’t want to start tearing up in this interview again.”

Asked what led to him choosing New England, Smith said that after some reflection the Patriots “just seemed like the perfect opportunity” for him. “From knowing what I knew, I believe that everything that they stand for kind of matches my football DNA,” he explained. “I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity. I believe that this is a franchise that has everything it needs, all the ingredients, all the right stuff.”

The day after Smith joined the team the Patriots made another splash at tight end, adding Hunter Henry. This has led many to expect the Patriots will try to replicate their offense of the early 2010’s, which dominated using 12 personnel. Among those recalling that offense following the signing was Smith himself.

“I was extremely excited,” Smith said, when asked his reaction to the Henry news. “I’ve seen the success that the Patriots have had in the past with two tight end sets. I’m just confident in their ability to be able to allow us to make plays.” That echoes what Henry said on Monday, when he remarked that the Patriots “put the tight end position back on the map.”

Even before Bill Belichick, the Patriots seem to be at their best with at least one dominant tight end on the roster. The team’s stellar history predates Rob Gronkowski, with players such as Ben Coates and Russ Francis playing starring roles in their time in New England. Now, Smith and Henry will look to add to that legacy.

Given how early in the process they signed, the money spent, and the desperate need at the position based on last season, there’s a good chance Smith and Henry become the face of the Patriots’ seismic 2021 free agency class. There’s a lot of pressure on that group to right the wrongs after a 7-9 season, but the tight ends appear to be ready for the challenge. It’s still early, but both seem to be in the right frame of mind for what’s ahead.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at